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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

[WA] Crystal'd dad: If you violate the law, we don't need you as a police officer

..."If you work down at McDonald's, or you work at Macy's, or you work at Nordstrom, or you work at Albertson's and you do domestic violence, I can't do anything about it," Lane Judson explained. "But if you're a public servant, and you took an oath to uphold the law to protect - and even to protect the ones that you love - and you violate that law, we don't need you as a police officer"...

Five years later
Remembering Crystal

The Peninsula Gateway
Paige Richmond
April 30th, 2008

Last week marked two important dates for Lane Judson. Thursday, April 24, was his daughter Crystal's birthday. But rather than celebrating the day, Lane and his wife, Patty, were reminded of another event - the five-year anniversary of one the biggest crimes in Gig Harbor history.

In 2003, just two days after their daughter turned 35, Crystal Judson Brame was killed by her husband, David Brame - who, at the time, was the Tacoma Police Chief.

Brame shot his wife in the parking lot of a Gig Harbor shopping center before turning the gun on himself. The Brames' two children, Haley and David Jr., then 8 and 5, respectively, were witnesses.

In the days and months that followed, shocking revelations about Brame became public: He was prone to domestic violence, having abused Crystal for nearly a decade before their divorce, and he had used his power as police chief to intimidate Crystal and prevent her from reporting his abuse.

But the following months also marked legal and personal accomplishments on the part of Crystal's father.

Lane Judson began campaigning for state and federal reform of domestic violence laws. He filed a lawsuit against the Tacoma Police Department for wrongful death. And he has provided seminars on domestic violence prevention to police departments across the country.

In the past five years, Lane Judson has not taken a single day off for vacation or rest. Instead, he has worked tirelessly to make sure what happened to his daughter does not happen to anyone else.

Time has also allowed the Gig Harbor community to heal. The Crystal Judson Foundation, a non-profit organization that sponsors events and promotes education to prevent domestic abuse and violence, has also been formed.

On Saturday, the foundation and the Judsons held a candlelight ceremony at Peninsula Christian Fellowship to honor Crystal's memory. People like David Branscom, a Gig Harbor resident, attended the event to see Lane Judson's presentation on the warning signs of domestic abuse - the same presentation he delivers during law enforcement trainings.

Branscom has two daughters of his own and hopes to teach them how to avoid potentially dangerous relationships. He was living in Gig Harbor when the shootings occurred and said he knows the crime affected him.

"The issue of domestic abuse - I've heard a lot about it, and it's something I don't want in my home," he said.

Lane Judson said that the many opportunities he's had to speak about his daughter's life allowed something good to come from a tragedy - namely that others, like Branscom, may help prevent domestic violence from happening.

"We were just a normal family," said Lane Judson, a retired U.S. Navy Chief, about what his life was like before Crystal died. "It was this tragedy that really turned things around, and made us stop and think, 'How many other people are involved in this situation?' "

His wife, Patty, agreed.

"Nothing like this ever happened to us," she said. "It was overwhelming. But we just had to do something."

One of the biggest steps Lane Judson took in the past five years was advocating for the Crystal Judson Brame Domestic Violence Protocol Program, a federal law that provides grant funding to law enforcement agencies to educate their officers about domestic violence. Both Lane and Patty Judson felt that their son-in-law's position in the police department was what allowed his abuse against his daughter to go unpunished.

Reports disclosed after Brame's death, for example, revealed that he had failed two of three necessary psychological examinations for employment in law enforcement.

"If you work down at McDonald's, or you work at Macy's, or you work at Nordstrom, or you work at Albertson's and you do domestic violence, I can't do anything about it," Lane Judson explained. "But if you're a public servant, and you took an oath to uphold the law to protect - and even to protect the ones that you love - and you violate ... that law, we don't need you as a police officer."

Lane Judson placed his first call to state Sen. Maria Cantwell asking that such a law be passed on May 12, 2003 - just two days after his daughter's funeral.

It would take 2 1/2 years - and a local campaign involving 12,500 hand-addressed letters mailed to state congressmen and senators - before the law was passed on December 16, 2005.

The Judsons received a personal call from U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee the night the law was approved, a little more than a week before Christmas.

"He told us, 'Your daughter's name will forever be in the halls of Congress.' And we told him" - said Lane Judson, who paused and began to shed tears as he recounted the memory - "it was the best Christmas present we could ever get."

At the same time Lane Judson was campaigning for federal change, other changes were happening locally. The state of Washington passed the Crystal Clear Initiative in 2004, a law that mandates that every state law enforcement program has an officer-involved domestic policy in place.

The Judsons also filed a wrongful death suit against the City of Tacoma, claiming that the city should never had hired Brame in the first placed and that the department needed to be reformed. The lawsuit was settled out of court in 2006, with $12 million awarded to Haley and David Jr. as the sole beneficiaries.

The Brames' children, who are now under the legal guardianship of Crystal's sister and brother-in-law, Julie and David Ahrens, are doing well, Patty Judson said.

"They're just doing fantastic, and we're so proud of them," she said. "We try to make their life as normal as we possibly can."

Lane Judson added that it's difficult to consider their grandchildren's lives normal when they have "experienced such a tragedy" of losing their mother and father, but that he and his wife attempt to keep Crystal's memory and name alive for Haley and David Jr.

One way of accomplishing that was through the conditions of the lawsuit against the City of Tacoma. Pierce County, which was initially named as a co-defendant in the lawsuit, agreed to name its domestic violence resource center - which was, at the time, in the process of being constructed- after Crystal if the county was dropped from the civil case.

The Judsons agreed, and the Crystal Judson Family Justice Center was formed in late 2005.

About the same time, then-retiring Gig Harbor Mayor Gretchen Wilbert, civic leader Laurie Winkle and attorney Parker Reich established The Crystal Judson Foundation. Since forming, the foundation has been working to build an ice arena in Gig Harbor to honor Crystal, who was an award-winning figure skater as a child.

At Saturday's anniversary ceremony, Wilbert announced that the foundation is presently negotiating to acquire property on which to build the arena. She also stated that a temporary arena may soon be built at Uptown Gig Harbor.

That ice arena, Wilbert said, is just one step of many that the foundation and the Judsons will take to keep Crystal's memory alive.

"This isn't the end, this isn't the beginning; it's just one chapter," she said. "And there will be chapter after chapter after chapter."

Reach Lifestyles Coordinator Paige Richmond at 853-9243 or by e-mail at paige.richmond@gateline.com.

http://www.gateline.com/100/story/1295.html

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